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Pickett v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 30, 2017

Lincoln R. Pickett, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Lawrence Superior Court. The Honorable Michael A. Robbins, Judge. Trial Court Cause Nos. 47D01-1601-F6-105 47D01-1602-MR-129

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Jennifer G. Schlegelmilch Deputy Public Defender Lawrence County Public Defender Agency Bedford, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Ian McLean Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          SHARPNACK, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Charged under one cause number with a count of Level 6 felony obstruction of justice, [1] one count of Level 6 felony abuse of a corpse, [2] two counts of Class A misdemeanor false informing, [3] and one count of Class A misdemeanor failure to report a dead body, [4] Lincoln Pickett was additionally charged, under a separate cause number, with one count of Level 4 felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, [5] and one count of murder.[6]

         [¶2] In this interlocutory appeal under both cause numbers, Pickett challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to bifurcate the proceedings to prevent the jury from hearing evidence of his prior conviction-Class C felony escape-potentially qualifying him as a serious violent felon ("SVF") if he was in possession of a firearm. We reverse and remand.

         Issue

         [¶3] The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether the trial court erred by denying Pickett's motion to bifurcate the proceedings.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶4] On January 24, 2016, Kathy Riggle reported to the Mitchell Police Department that her daughter, Kamie Ratcliff, also known as Kamie Brashear, was missing. Mitchell Police Officer Matt England received information that Kamie might be staying with Pickett and Jasmine Pickett at their home in Mitchell, Indiana, and followed up on that information. Eventually the State filed charges against Pickett under the two cause numbers which the court later consolidated for trial. Citing both cause numbers, Pickett moved to bifurcate the trial, with Phase I addressing all charges save for the SVF allegation, with Phase II addressing the SVF charge, alleging his prior conviction of escape.

         [¶5] The State opposed Pickett's motion, successfully gaining permission to amend the information to allege that Picket was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of Indiana Code section 35-47-4-6. The State also proposed an instruction based on Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction (Criminal) 7.2740. The proposed instruction, rather than use the term "possession of firearm by serious violent felon", designates the offense as "possession of firearm in violation of I.C. 35-47-4-5" and indicates that Escape is the prior conviction in question in this case. Citing Spearman v. State, 744 N.E.2d 545 (Ind.Ct.App. 2001), the State argued that the amendment to the information and the proposed instruction, deleting any reference to the term "serious violent felon, " would sufficiently reduce any prejudice to Pickett's defense that might be caused by the jury hearing about a prior, qualifying conviction. The trial court denied Pickett's motion, and this interlocutory appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] Both parties agree that our review of the trial court's decision on the issue of bifurcation is for an abuse of discretion. See Hines v. State, 794 N.E.2d 469, 470-71 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003), adopted by Hines v. State, 801 N.E.2d 634 (Ind. 2004). An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's ...


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